Time continues in it's ever momentous move 'forward' and it is already March 17th, 2014. The season is wrapping up at Palmer station and I am hopeful that it was a productive year for the scientists and the crew who support them in their work. I myself, left the high latitude for a more moderate one before the New Year and have started compiling my research for the work to come.
Despite being iced in for the vast majority of my time at Palmer, I managed to be incredibly productive and gathered what feels like a copious amount of information. I left with thousands of pictures, a few dozen pinhole camera images, hours of video, a handful of interviews, a lifetime of inspiration and a tremendous amount of gratitude for all of the people who helped me actualize my project. With that gratitude is an enormous amount of respect for those who dedicate their lives to Antarctic field research and the people who support them. Many returning year after year to continue their respective research and jobs. All in the name of furthering our knowledge of the world by focusing on the unique ecological environment that is the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP).
While I was expecting to be taken by the science and the place itself; the mountains, ocean, ice and wildlife -
I was not expecting to be taken by the people. As you can imagine, it takes a certain type of person to dedicate their life to Antarctic research and support. Spending months away from family and friends, away from civilization, living in very tight quarters, sleeping in bunk beds and eating a diet (as delicious as it was) with a minimum of fresh fruit and vegetables, is certainly not for everyone. It's true that I have no data to support my hypothesis here, but I hardly find it rash to say that Antarctic research stations are filled with misfits of all sorts. People who feel they don't fit in any other place, or people who wish not to fit in any place at all.
I never did quite summate the social order of the station and felt a bit of an outcast myself. But I did meet people who live their lives as I have dreamt of living my own and I was filled with a deep sense of admiration, such as I have never felt before. It is one thing to dream of doing or being something and entirely another to actually live it. And so for a moment there, I wondered if perhaps I had missed my calling as a wildlife biologist or some other type of field researcher. Then I remembered that despite my admiration, I am not a scientist - I am an artist and it is who I am. And although my occupation is not that of my admiration, the room for dialogue is open and through my work, I can speak of their research and inform people about it in a way that they perhaps cannot express it themselves.
From what I observed, most seemed to be there out of a passion for their work. Of course however, there are many reasons one travels to the ends of the earth and I expect those reasons are different for everyone. In Fen Montaigne's book, 'Fraser's Penguins' when speaking of Antarctica, Mr. Fraser (a scientist who has lead research at Palmer station for over three decades) is quoted as saying, 'There's nothing good for a person here, except for the soul'. From my estimation, it is quite possibly the unspoken reason many people find themselves there, of course that is just my very unscientific opinion man...
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1158885. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.